Tabletop Kiosks: The New Spies On The Block

If you’ve recently eaten at Red Robin, Applebee’s or Chili’s, you may have noticed a tabletop kiosk that allows you to order food, play games and even pay your bill. These devices are becoming more and more popular in restaurants. But did you know they have a built-in camera?

If you take a close look along the top of the ZIOSK as shown below, you will see an integrated camera built in to the device.

I haven’t checked to see if there is a microphone, but it stands to reason, there is. Imagine the implications of this? Restaurants spying on their patrons, listening to their private conversations. Thinking of complaining about that server? Are you sure they can’t hear you?

Whenever I eat at a place that has one of these devices I always turn the device around so the camera is faced away from me. I don’t really like these devices for the most part. I do use them to check out when I am done with my meal for four reasons:

  1. I don’t have to wait for the server to bring me my check. This is often the worst part.
  2. I can enter in my rewards number when I check out. Whenever I have the server do this, it seems like I don’t get credit or am not told when I have rewards to use.
  3. I don’t have to give the server my card. Often the card gets taken somewhere and could be easily cloned or your card number written down. It happens all the time.
  4. It’s easy to leave the tip and not have to calculate it. These devices allow you to slide to a percentage and tell you what that amount is. You can also leave a comment in a short survey afterward, but it is optional.

I wish they would bring the device to people without kids after your meal when they clear the extra crap off your table. So why don’t I like them until I check out?

  1. Sometimes I get a small table and with everything else on the table, this thing takes too much room.
  2. The camera…that’s just creepy.
  3. They charge for the games. They should be free to give you something to do while you wait for your meal. Better yet, make them free for kids. They’re the ones usually acting up while waiting for their food.

The sticker at the bottom says $1.99 for games. However if the restaurants want to make people happy during sometimes long waits for their food, they should make the games free! Most people have games on their smart phones anyway and don’t need the kiosks for entertainment. So maybe all that extra stuff is just to hide the fact that the device can spy on you. Who knows. Here are some articles I found while researching cameras in these devices.

Are Restaurant Tablets On The Table Spying On You?

Wikipedia Entry (Note the section on Privacy Concerns)

I even found a video from someone who shares my concerns over these devices.

Finally, I found someone who has allegedly already hacked into the devices right in the restaurant. Scary. What do you think? Let me know below.


About Chris Savage

Electronics Engineer, Hacker, Programmer, host of Savage///Circuits TV, reviewer of Test Equipment and Musician.
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